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A reported blog about all things Middle East and North Africa.

Sexual assault stalks Tahrir Square protests (VIDEO)

Several women, some of them foreign, have been seriously assaulted by men near Cairo's Tahrir Square in the past few days.
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Egyptian women protest in downtown Cairo against the military's violent treatment towards women, and to call for an end to the attacks on protesters. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a nasty byproduct of having tens of thousands of people, most of them young men, in one space and with no police presence to speak of. Several incidents of sexual assault, by Egyptian men against both Egyptian and foreign women, have been reported in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square since anti-military protests intensified this week.  


In Egypt, majority say military will handover power: Gallup

Amid mass demonstrations to mark the first year since the beginning of Egypt's uprising, Gallup releases poll that says majority have confidence in ruling generals.
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An Egyptian man reacts in Tarhrir Square during Friday prayers on Jan. 27, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. People prayed in the square just days after the tens of thousands celebrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square marking the first anniversary of the uprising which toppled President Hosni Mubarak. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

It's another example of the parallel realities that have formed in Egypt since the uprising last year. Tens of thousands are marching today on Cairo's Tahrir Square, to call an end to military rule following the first anniversary of the revolt on Jan. 25, 2012, and that saw hundreds of thousands demonstrate.

At the same time, Gallup, a leading public opinion research firm, released a survey that says 82 percent of Egyptians believe the ruling military council will handover power to a civilian government by the end of Jun. 2012.


Mideast peace talks fall apart, again

Palestinians unwilling to continue talks until Israel recognizes 1967 borders.
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BAKA AL GARBIYEH, ISRAEL - JANUARY 25: (ISRAEL OUT) Palestinian children play on their roof backdropped by Israel's separation barrier on January 25, 2011 in Baka al-Garbiyeh, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has all but announced the failure of the latest round of preliminary talks with Israel — talks that were supposed to usher in a new round of actual negotiations.

According to the Palestinians, Israel’s refusal to define and recognize the future Palestinian state is the cause of the aborted talks, which ended Wednesday night after only five meetings. The Palestinians want Israel to agree to the 1967, pre-Six-Day War borders as the basis for renewed negotiations. Israel said that it is willing to continue the dialogue.


Natan Eshel: Netanyahu's chief of staff embroiled in sex scandal

Natan Eshel has been accused of harassing a female staffer in Israel.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during the weekly cabinet meeting in his offices on Dec. 25, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. Netanyahu has so far not commented on the sex scandal of his Chief of Staff Natan Eshel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, is investigating a claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Natan Eshel, harassed and stalked a female colleague.

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The woman, so far only identified as “R,” is said to have initially reported Eshel’s behavior two months ago while on a business trip to the United States during which Eshel is accused of following her, spying on her text messages and harassing her.

The woman reported the behavior to several colleagues within the prime minister’s office in real time, but declined to press charges. Her co-workers, who have not publically identified themselves but are said to include such senior officials as the prime minister’s military attaché, Maj. Gen. Yochanan Locker, and cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, decided to alert the attorney general to their concerns.

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Netanyahu was not informed of the suspicions in order to “distance him from the affair,” according to Ha’aretz, Israel's largest daily newspaper.

Tension is running high in the prime minister’s office, where several members of the senior staff have already been questioned, according to the Israel radio reporter who broke the story Thursday morning. According to most reports, neither Eshel nor the woman are among those queried so far.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel published a letter sent to Netanyahu Thursday that demanded, in light of the gravity of the accusations, that the prime minister immediately suspend Eshel. Netanyahu has so far not commented on the case.

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Egypt: Jailed blogger released, but still criticized for views

Maikel Nabil, a young Egyptian blogger, is released after 10 months in prison. But his views are still unpopular with many of his otherwise progressive peers.

It's official: Maikel Nabil, a blogger jailed for months by Egypt's military rulers and who approached death with his severe hunger strike, is free. 

He was released from Tora prison earlier tonight after the country's de-facto leader, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, on Saturday pardoned Nabil and nearly 2,000 other prisoners convicted in controversial military trials. 


Facebook hosts YaLa Middle East peace conference

YaLa peace conference aims to empower the younger generation.
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YaLa Young Leaders are rising up. Here, two young Palestinian girls take part in a weekly demonstration against the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements on village lands in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, on Jan. 6, 2012. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Just beneath the radar of formal diplomacy and strategic talks, the largest peace conference in the history of the Middle East is underway today.

Facebook is hosting, Tel Aviv’s Peres Center for Peace is sponsoring, and everyone who is anyone, from Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blind opera superstar Andrea Bocelli and legendary Barcelona football coach Pep Guardiola, are participating, alongside some 50,000 young citizens representing most of the Middle East.


Egypt's military leader lifts emergency law

Egypt's emergency law, long a tool of government repression, may be lifted.
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A student fixes a banner that reads 'No, Emergency Law,' during a protest in Cairo on March 5, 2005. Egypt's military ruler, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said in a speech on Jan. 24, 2012 that he would lift the decades-old emergency law, which has long been used to silence Egypt's opposition and justify crackdowns on the Egyptian population. (AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO, Egypt — On the eve of the first anniversary of Egypt's uprising, defacto leader and head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, announced he would lift the country's decades-old, repressive "emergency law," but that many saw as a bid to temper rising political sentiment ahead of Wednesday's planned demonstrations.


Israel welcomes EU ban on Iran's oil

Will Israel take more seriously an EU-sponsored Palestinian peace plan?
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An Iranian Qader (Ghader) ground-to-sea missile is launched on the last day of navy war games near the Strait of Hormuz in early January. On Jan. 23, 2012, the European Union enacted tough sanctions against Iran; earlier, Tehran had threatened to close down the waterway in retaliation against an oil embargo. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — After years of pleading with Europe, Israel today welcomed the decision by the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers to embargo Iranian crude oil and freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank.


Egyptian blogger still in prison, despite pardon

Hopes jailed Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil would be released are dashed, after military pardon reportedly hits delay.
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An Egyptian anti-regime protester shouts slogans during a demonstration calling for the interim military rulers to step down in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Reports that jailed blogger Maikel Nabil would be released ahead of the one-year anniversary of Egypt's uprising had raised hopes for protestors. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Celebrations over the Egyptian military’s pardon yesterday of jailed blogger, Maikel Nabil, appear to have been premature, dampening hopes among activists that a months-long prisoner would be freed in time for protests on the one-year anniversary of the uprising on Jan. 25, 2012.

Nabil’s brother Mark, and a handful of other activists, gathered outside Cairo’s Tora prison Sunday morning to await 26-year-old Maikel’s release. Some local media even reported that he had been freed from jail.

But after several hours the prison administration informed the supporters that the decision by Egypt’s de-facto leader, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, to pardon the detainees had not yet been ratified.


Human Rights Watch criticizes Egypt's military government

HRW announced the release of its annual World Report 2012 in Cairo today.
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Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report 2012 in Cairo, Egypt today, and the group's director had harsh words for Egypt's military government. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The prominent US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced the release of its annual report today in Cairo, in a move its executive director said is meant to reflect the report's primary focus on the so-called "Arab Spring," and that came with harsh words for Egypt's ruling generals one year after a popular uprising here. 

Egypt's military rule "started off positively in terms of protecting the demonstrators and facilitating the departure of Mubarak," HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, told reporters at a press conference in downtown Cairo, not far from the city's iconic Tahrir Square.